Thursday, September 29, 2011

Papercourt Lake

Grey Wagtail

I have been poking around my local area recently, trying to find a good and convenient place to have as a local patch. The Broadmeads and River Wey are looking like strong contenders, but I did venture to Papercourt Lake in Send today to check it out. Hard to believe its the end of September as it feels like mid July at the moment. No complaints, I am sure the cold is on the way. I recoded 33 species in about an hour. Birds of note were 5 Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap, 2 Egyptian Goose, Kingfisher, Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail.

Great Crested Grebe

Papercourt Lake

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pulborough Brooks - RSPB

Today my wife Lori and I headed south from Woking to Pulburough RSPB Reserve; set in the Arun Valley, West Sussex. The hour drive went quickly as we traveled down the A283, enjoying the scenic views and quaint villages along the way. Just twenty minutes prior to our arrival, the skies turned black and the rain began. This was a blessing in disguise, though we didn't realize it at the time. After parking up and getting our rain gear on we headed inside to the visitor centre. Here, we paid for an annual family subscription to the RSPB and a new rain jacket for Lori. It stopped raining. The reserve has a wonderful loop trail with four hides and two look out points. In between these, the trail takes you past fields, ponds and woodland.

 As this was Lori's first official week back in the UK, there was going to be plenty of new birds to see. As we approached the first hide we stopped to watch a flock of tits feeding in some bushes, set within the woodland. Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit made up the party. A Chiffchaff was calling from the canopy and a Spotted Flycatcher was snatching insects, using various snags to launch its attack. Not a bad start! Though we were enjoying these woodland birds, we were soon distracted by the sounds coming from the muddy scrape around the corner. 

At Jupp's View, an open view point close to the first hide, we looked across a shallow lake and fields. Greylag Geese were abundant, as were Wigeon, Mallard and Canada Geese. After settling in, we began to pick out more species. Lapwing were tucked along the grass verges; with a few flying across the water. On the mudflats there were Ruff and Dunlin, busily probing in the shallows. Along the grass fringes were Common Teal, but after a second scan, four Snipe materialized; exposing there long bills, previously buried in the mud. Lori pointed out an interesting wader which had just appeared; Little Ringed Plover! There was so much coming and going of birds that we could have stayed there all day. We didn't have all day but we did scan one more time. In the middle of this shallow lake was a grassy island with a muddy point. I began to scrutinise the waders on that muddy point, they looked different. Unfortunately they were roosting, with their heads tucked. Luckily, something must of triggered them to move around. The first bird gave its identity up immediately, with its patchy and blotchy red patterned breast and belly: CURLEW SANDPIPER!

View from Nettley's Hide
Curlew Sandpiper has been very much on my radar but did not expect it today. We spotted 5 individuals just before a Sparrowhawk came screaming through, scattering birds in all directions. We spent about half hour in Nettley's Hide but couldn't relocate the birds. Our next stop was at Hanger View where we bumped into two RSPB volunteers. They also confirmed seeing Curlew Sandpiper, though from there vantage point counted 14 individuals, the other nine were hidden behind the island. This was largest group of these birds recorded at the site on one day. All pushed down to the reserve because of the rain! Further along we stopped at Redstart corner. Ironically, two Redstarts had been reported from this area and on arrival we found two Redstarts! Both birds were perched on a barbwire fence; flying to the ground and snatching flies.

We finished our day with 48 species seen; 19 lifers for Lori and 1 for me: CURLEW SANDPIPER!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

London Calling

Being an old Clash fan, I've always wanted to have an excuse for a post tittle like this! And though Joe Strummer has left us now, I am sure he would have enjoyed the trails around this unique piece of habitat! The London Wetland Centre, owned and run by The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, is located close to our capital city, next to the River Thames and is renowned as being the best urban wildlife areas in Europe. Today was my second visit, the first being in 2003, when I visited with my birding and ringing friend Susan Frost. Luckily, the 26 mile drive went smoothly this morning, taking just 40 minutes from my home town of Woking. I would not want try it on a week day though....traffic!

Mandarin Duck
On arrival my first bird as I got of the car was Ring-necked Parakeet. These birds have now colonized many areas in the south-east of England. The entrance fee for an adult is £10.55, so for anyone living local or wanting multiple visits should just pay the £36.00 annual membership; which allows free entry everyday to all the WWT reserves. Good to join anyway, and support their great work. After ogling some of the native and not so native permanent residents, such as Red-breasted Goose, Brent Goose, Barnacle Goose, Hooded Merganser and Eider, I made my way around the Wildside area of the main lake. Moorhen and Coot were abundant and still feeding young. Other species such as Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Grey Heron were also in good numbers. Some Mandarin Duck got me excited and though unlikely to be tickable at this location, I did get some really good looks.

Spotted Flycatcher
On a small trail between the Field Lab and the Wildside hide, I got my first year tick of the day: Cetti's Warbler. Its explosive and unique song chorused from the reeds and though I didn't see the bird, which is par for the course, I did get to listen for a good five minutes. My next tick of the day came about ten minutes later when I bumped into another birder who had just found a Spotted Flycatcher. We both watched for a while and located a second bird. With the decline of this species over the last ten years, any sighting is good but this was a great bird for the location. Once I had scanned and had my fill of the Wildside, I headed back toward the visitor centre and out around the east side. There is no loop trail, so once you have birded one side you need to back track. There are five hides around this side and I made a visit at each, finishing up at Peacock Tower which looks over both the Main Lake and Wader Scrape. Waders themselves were in short supply, with only Lapwing and Ruff being present. There was a good selection of gulls to look through with Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull (year tick), Great Black-backed Gull and a single Yellow-legged Gull. Ducks seen from the hides included Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Tufted Duck. My total for the site was 37 species, of which 3 were year ticks. All in all a pleasant mornings birding and I look forward to returning in the winter; in search of a Bittern!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hobby at Boldermere Lake

Hobby hawking dragonflies
On my first visit to Boldermere lake I made the mistake of turning right and walking along the A3 side to find an access point. Not a good idea. Today I turned left and was glad I did, as I found a great vantage point to see the whole lake. On arrival, however, I was stuck at the small opening nearest the road, as I immediately spotted a Hobby above and didn't want to move. I say Hobby, in fact, there were FOUR hobbies; hawking dragonflies over the water! I gave up trying to photograph (got one shot shown above) them and just enjoyed the aerial onslaught. Its amazing, just six weeks ago I was standing next to a lake on Vancouver Island; watching Merlin do exactly the same thing. Today there were two adults and two juveniles. During a lull in their high-speed sorties, I hoofed it around to an open area, spotting a fly-over Peregrine Falcon at the same time.
Boldermere Lake

A great start to my vigil and though it was hard not to watch, there were periods when all would disappear or would circle above the trees. It was then that I could relax and scan the lake for grebes and ducks. Coot made up the bulk of the water birds: 171 individuals; some with young of varying ages. These weren't the only birds with young; there was a pair of Mute Swan with six cygnets and Great-crested Grebe with young. Bird of the day has to be Hobby, though getting my first pair of Wigeon for the year was nice. The male showing his beautiful and rich eclipse plumage.
  • Mute Swan - 2 + 6 cygnets
  • Tufted Duck - 8
  • Mallard - 10
  • Pochard - 1 
  • Grey Heron - 1
  • Moorhen - 3
  • Coot - 171
  • Great-crested Grebe - 3
  • Peregrine Falcon - 1
  • Wigeon - 2
  • Common Buzzed - 1
  • Hobby - 4
  • Treecreeper - 2
  • Jackdaw - 2
  • Carrion Crow - 2
  • Wood Pigeon - 8

*Note: Someone give me the official spelling of this site! I have seen it spelled: Bouldermere, Boldermere and Bolder Mere! Until I am informed otherwise I shall leave it as it is.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Black Tern - Staines Reservoir

An hour vigil at Staines Reservoir produced my first British Black Tern. Two birds had been reported to the Surrey Bird Club over the last couple of weeks but until today hadn't seen them. This individual was feeding with Common Tern way off shore, hence the grainy photo. It eventually settled on a raft next to the Common Tern for a few minutes, giving a good size comparison. Other species seen included Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Coot, Great-crested Grebe, Cormorant, Black-headed Gull, Linnet, House Martin, Starling, Carrion Crow and Pied Wagtail.

Black-headed Gull (juvenile)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cliffe Pools

At 11:45pm last night I was still undecided on where I should go birding today. My short listed choices were The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust-London, Rainham Marshes and Cliffe Pools. I opted for Cliffe Pools, south of the River Thames in Kent. Leaving early to avoid M25 traffic, I headed out. Good for a less stressful drive, not so good for hitting the tide right. When I arrived at the reserve the tide was low, so I had to work hard to spot roosting birds.

Cliffe Pool en-route to Flamingo look-out

On arrival there was only one car in the car park and other than a few dog walkers, I pretty much had the place to myself. The reserve is very big and birding the tide is probably the best way to go. However, I had a great morning and recorded 46 species, six of which were year birds; including a LIFER! My first scan from the car park produced a large group of Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit. As I was scanning through the Redshank for anything different I noticed one bird leave the group and immediately land some 20 meters away. I began to scrutinise it as it looked a little different from the other group. I didn't have to sweat for long as it flew and did a small circuit above the water; showing no white on the hind wing: SPOTTED REDSHANK! This bird has been on my mind since getting back to blighty and I was absolutely thrilled to find one.

Little Egret

Like I said, the reserve is big and there is plenty of walking to get to good vantage points. En-route there were small pockets of waders roosting including lots of Redshank, Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit. Little Egret, Little Grebe, Coot were abundant in most areas. Looking across the Thames I picked up Grey Plover, Herring Gull and Oystercatcher for the year. While scanning I turned around to see a Wheatear on the wall I was leaning on. Not a year bird but the best look I have had in years. I left the reserve at 13:40 and was back in Woking at 15:15. I thanked the M25 God...